New Honeywell Round Thermostats Suck: Do Not Buy

Published at 13:48 on 21 October 2020

I ordered one to use as a mechanical, low-voltage thermostat for my electric heating after I converted it to low-voltage control. It came up on my Amazon product search, and had what seemed to be a decent rating of 4.2 out of five stars. That, plus the appearance of familiarity with the product (I have lived in homes with older versions of them before) prompted me to choose it.

Big mistake! Turns out it’s not a mechanical thermostat at all; it’s an “intelligent” (I use the term very loosely here) electronic one, complete with a printed-circuit board hidden inside. It’s just disguised to look like a traditional mechanical thermostat.

If Honeywell had properly engineered such a design, there would be no problem. But they did not. Look at the actual written reviews for it on Amazon’s product page and you will see something unsettling: a large number of one-star reviews, with those bad reviews rated as being the most helpful.

For further amusement, go to the HVAC-TALK site, feed “Honeywell CT87” into the search box, and you will be rewarded with some archived discussions of this model by HVAC professionals. The general consensus is that they are junk and should not be installed.

The main problem is apparently how the firmware emulates a traditional mechanical thermostat’s anticipator (a tiny electric heater inside a thermostat that “anticipates” the tendency for heating systems to overshoot past the set temperature). It assumes a fixed and unrealistically rapid rate of temperature increase when the heat comes on. It works OK if it’s barely cold enough to need to run the heat, but as the outside temperature drops, it gets less and less accurate; you have to set the thermostat ever higher to get the same inside temperature. This has apparently even caused frozen and burst pipes for some homeowners!

To make a shitty product even worse:

  • They have an internal, undocumented lithium battery that will die within a decade, degrading performance further.
  • They have an undocumented power-stealing design that is incompatible with some systems.
  • The case design, in contrast to the traditional Round case, has poor air circulation which makes for poor sensitivity.
  • The temperature-sensing thermistor is mounted directly on the circuit board, making its sensitivity to air temperature worse yet.
  • Their circuitry is unreliable and prone to failing entirely within a year or two.

Honeywell Round thermostats didn’t used to suck; in fact, they used to be the most popular thermostat out there, and would last decades. That was when they were mechanical. But that design used mercury switches and ended up getting banned*. Instead of choosing to go with a mechanical magnetic snap design, Honeywell chose the electronic route, and badly botched it.

* For good reason. Mercury is toxic, so old mercury thermostats should be recycled. Instead, they generally end up in the trash, causing toxic waste problems.

What’s infuriating is that this has been a problem for most of a decade, and Honeywell is still selling these defective-by-design pieces of junk, apparently because I am not the only one suckered by their retro appearance into believing they are simple, mechanical, and reliable.

Caveat emptor!

Victory in Bolivia, but Will it Hold?

Published at 16:18 on 20 October 2020

So, the coup that the Right used to seize power in the wake of the popular rebellion against a caudillo-in-the-making has failed. As expected, once the right-wing caretaker government was compelled to hold a free and fair election, MAS-IPSP won it handily.

This is really about the most optimistic thing that could have happened: popular rebellions against first a left-wing leader who got addicted to power, then against the right-wing usurper who tried to take advantage of the first rebellion.

Now we shall see if the new order holds. I have long had a measure of optimism about the revolutionary process in Bolivia that is rare for me, and that Bolivia just managed the rare feat of repudiating left-wing authoritarianism without reverting to right-wing rule shows this optimism is not entirely misplaced.

The biggest peril now is what happens when Morales returns to Bolivia, as he almost certainly will. Will he settle into a role as an elder statesman, or will he try and continue to conflate the social revolution there with his person, and attempt to regain personal political power?

What Biden Should Say about Court-Packing

Published at 15:23 on 17 October 2020

I am not going to go through the effort of drafting a speech in full, but what he says should mention the following points:

  • During the Obama Administration, the GOP acted to frustrate not just his Supreme Court appointments, but his judicial appointments in general.
  • As soon as Trump took office, the Senate eagerly enabled his administration’s filling of the resulting backlog of empty seats.
  • The Trump regime has aggressively screened its nominees for ideological correctness, and much more so than any previous administration.
  • Add that to the judges appointed during the George W. Bush administration, which also lost the popular vote, and a huge chunk of Federal judges, at all levels, have been appointed by administrations without popular consent.
  • Therefore, court-packing is not something the Democrats wish to do; court-packing merely represents an undesirable status quo.
  • All of this has been done legally; no laws were broken in doing it.
  • Likewise, the law (specifically the Constitution) gives the President and Congress the right to set the size of the Supreme Court. That there be nine justices is mentioned no place in the Constitution. The size of the Court has been changed before, and it can be changed again.
  • That said, changing this number is a drastic step, and doing so might well be expected to increase the already dangerous level of polarization in this country.
  • Given that downside, it is therefore not a step to be taken lightly, and hopefully a step that can be avoided.
  • Whether or not it can be avoided depends on the conduct of this administration, the Senate, and the Courts.
  • However, if a Court, the majority of the justices which were appointed by administrations operating without the consent of the governed, legislates from the bench to further thwart the will of the governed, my hand may be forced.
  • For example, I am not willing to see health care taken from millions of citizens with pre-existing conditions, and will do everything legally within my ability to prevent this. I consider this to be the only decent and moral stance I can have on this issue.
  • To reiterate, I hope it doesn’t come to this.
  • But, over 250 years ago, our founding fathers wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”
  • While I hope I will not be compelled to change the size of the Court to preserve the principle of consent of the governed, my dedication to this principle means that I cannot unilaterally relinquish all possibility of using that tool, either.
  • If Republicans are concerned about packing the courts, the single most important thing they should do right now is to put Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination on hold, and not let it advance unless the winner of the coming election approves of it. No other step could do more to preserve the integrity of our courts.

Karma Comes for the Orange Buffoon

Published at 08:36 on 4 October 2020

Some thoughts, in no particular order:

    • It is no surprise, given what we know of how the virus is spread and how little Trump believes in taking precautions against it.
    • That Trump has persistently refused to take such precautions undercuts his own claim of being a germophobe, a claim that he famously used in an attempt to delegitimize the alleged existence of the pee tape.
    • Trump has multiple risk factors for the disease, particularly age and obesity.
    • Trump is already experiencing symptoms, which were profound enough for him to be hospitalized. Therefore he is not amongst the lucky subset that cruise through an infection with no or only very mild symptoms.
    • Despite the secrecy surrounding his condition (and the resulting uncertainty), Trump does not appear to be seriously ill at the present time, given how he is still appearing in videos.
    • The first week is usually not the worst in severe cases, so while he may eventually prove to only have a relatively mild case, only after a week or two will it be safe to conclude this.
    • Even severe cases now typically survive, due to advances in caring for the disease. Plus, Trump has access to the best care available. Therefore he will probably survive.
    • Severe cases are still typically lengthy and incapacitating. Therefore a period of such incapacitation, where Pence has to assume presidential duties, is a very real possibility.
    • I do not think it will be possible to predict in detail how any of the above will affect the campaign, other than it will certainly affect it.